127 HOURS: Adam Gascoyne – VFX Supervisor & Co-founder – Union VFX

Adam Gascoyne is working in visual effects for over 15 years. He worked at Cinesite, MPC or Rainmaker London. His filmography includes such films as DIE ANOTHER DAY, DA VINCI CODE or the TV series ROME. He oversaw a large number of films including SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, INKHEART or LA MOME. He founded Union VFX with Tim Caplan.

What is your background at Union VFX?
Adam Gascoyne is a leading VFX supervisor with over 15 years of experience in the film industry, covering all technical aspects of the visual effects and postproduction process for Film and Television. Prior to setting up Union VFX, Adam worked as a visual effects supervisor at Cinesite, MPC and Rainmaker in London.

Tim Caplan has been in the visual effects industry for 17 years. He has played a key role in the start up of two large facilities Cinesite (where he first met Adam) and Mill Film.

How did you get involved with on 127 HOURS?
Danny approached me in October 2009 with the script and asked how to tackle the arm issues. After working on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE I think he was keen to have the same team working with him on 127 HOURS.

How was your collaboration with Danny Boyle?
Its always an aventure working with Danny, he is an inspiration and knows what he wants from the start. He leads from the front and is a great motivator. The whole team worked closely with him throughout the project.

What kind of effects have you made on this show?
127 HOURS is, on the face of it, not a big VFX movie but once you start looking in to the locations and the subject matter you realise that it is a really tricky movie to make, just getting to the locations took a hurculian effort. So that’s where the effects were used, to solve difficult production issues and help maintain the reality which was key to the story.

Can you explain the creation of the shot which start near James Franco and ends far above the canyon?
The first part of that shot was filmed in the canyon set in Salt Lake City, Then we shot plates from a helicopter at various heights above the actual accident site in Blue John Canyon. These plates were then projected onto geometry generated from height field data of the area. This allowed us to soar above and through the canyon lands which was impossible to film with such freedom.

Tell us about the shots showing the storm approaching. How did you create them? Are they full CG?
The clouds terrain and rain were all  fully CG. We referenced a quicktime movie that Danny gave us.

How did you recreate the horses in CG? And why not be shoot them in-camera?
The horses had to be filmed from such a low angle and depth it proved tricky to set up a run for them to get enough speed and jump far enough, we decided to go with the CG horses pretty early on as they also needed to be ready for the shoot and time was tight.

What was the size of the canyon set? Where was the line between the real set and the CG extension?
The set was 30ft tall and 60 ft long. The join varies from shot to shot and lens to lens but it was above the point where Aron falls from.

What have you done on the amputation shots?
We started with a great prosthetic arm made by Altarian. We needed to work  on the connective tissue under the skin and added a little blood though the sequence for continuity.

How did you remove the forearm when James Franco swim?
We tracked over a 3d shape and cleaned James Franco’s arm. They were very difficult shots due to the bubbles, caustic lights and skin movement. We textured the CG arm with photos of Aron Ralston arm shot the same time and location so it helped with the lighting etc.

Are you involved on shots of Ralston climbing a snowy mountain?
Yes, these shots were originally shot to be used before the accident so we cleaned out James arm again and replaced it with the ice pick.

What was the biggest challenge on this project?
There were many challenges, there was a 3 month schedule for post which went pretty quickly. The shots where James turns to dust were the most time consuming, lots of fun with Maya particles and cloth simulations.

How many shots have you made and what was the size of your team?
There are over 350 shots in the movie and we had a team of 20.

What are your softwares at Union?
Mainly Nuke with Maya, we use various tracking software.

What did you keep from this experience?
It was an amazing experience from start to finish, We were involved for just under a year from first draft of script to the final vfx delivery, I spent 9 weeks in Utah shooting in some amazing locations. So many experiences to keep.

What is your next project?
We have just finished a movie called WILL and we are working with Danny Boyle on the opening ceremony for the 2012 olympics.

What are the 4 movies that gave you the passion of cinema?
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
TIME BANDITS
STAR WARS

A big thanks for your time.

// WANT TO KNOW MORE ?

Union VFX: Official website of Union VFX.
fxguide: 127 HOURS article on fxguide.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2011

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Vincent Frei

Founder & Editor-in-Chief // VES Member // Former comp artist

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