How did Prime Focus get involved on this show?
We were initially asked to help out on the exploding henchman shot. Production were in need of a version very quickly for an upcoming preview screening. Once this was turned around we were offered the helicopter sequence and the remaining flare attack shots.
It’s the 1st feature of director Kim Jee-woon for USA. What was his approach about the visual effects?
Kim Jee-woon is the sort of Director who will use VFX only where he feels it’s really needed, favouring in-camera effects wherever possible. He was very specific about what he wanted to see and was particularly precise on timing.
How was your collaboration with the director?
It was a pretty smooth process. Feedback was clear and specific which made our job that much easier. Our direct relationship was with Friend Wells the supervising VFX producer who was great to work with on this project.
What have you done on this movie?
We worked on two of the film’s action sequences. The night time freeway chase that takes place early on in the film and the stand off against Cortez’s henchmen in Sommerton. For the chase sequence we supplied environment composites for the helicopter shots and for the stand off we worked on the sequence of shots in which one attacker is hit by a flare which in turn ignites the bullets and grenades he has on him.
Can you tell us in details about the helicopter chase sequence?
All of the interior and close exterior helicopter shots were filmed in a greenscreen studio. Moving backplates were supplied by production and it was our job to combine these elements as well as adding interactive light, reflections, CG rotor blades, windows and anything else needed to convincingly put us flying at high speed across Arizona.
How were filmed the background elements?
We received aerial plates of the city at night which were used for the shots prior to the actual chase. For the chase itself backplates were shot from a ground vehicle moving at speed. Many of the plates required reprojecting onto CG surfaces so that we could alter the apparent height and movement of the camera to better fit the action.
What was the main challenge for this sequence?
There was nothing especially painful. There was naturally a lot of green reflection to deal with on the exterior shots but this was just a case of doing the additional roto work needed to deal with it rather than it being a problem.
Can you explain to us how you create the bad guy that explodes?
The explosion shot was achieved using a combination of digi double, FX animation and elements. First we removed everything in the plate that needed to explode or react to the explosion. The character, car, flags and shrubs were all painted out. For the fire and smoke of the main explosion we used shot elements from our library. We animated a flying torso and limbs which were textured and lit. Our FX department supplied the smaller body parts, blood, secondary smoke and cloth sims. We used 2D and 2.5D techniques to add a shockwave and some movement to the car, flag and shrubs.
How did you create the various FX elements for these shots?
The FX were all done in Houdini. These comprised of the main exploding blood sim, finer blood spray, mist and splatter, small flying bits of flesh and cloth and smoke coming off of these and the larger body parts. For the shots leading up to the explosion we added the flare and smoke.
Have you created a digi-double for the body?
The digi-double was created and then carved up into the sections we wanted to see blown apart. Although the shot is clearly quite gory, it’s also meant to have a comic element to it. We played around with various combinations of body parts and animation until the director was happy that the shot had just the right impact. Timing was very important.
Have you made some clean-up work for stunt rig or crew members?
There was some minor rig and cable removal needed on the helicopter shots.
Which branches of Prime Focus have worked on this show?
London and Mumbai.
Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleep?
Not this time.
What do you keep from this experience?
Being a part of Arnie’s big screen comeback!
How long have you worked on this film?
How many shots have you done?
What was the size of your team?
Around 50 across all departments.
What is your next project?
We’re currently working on WHITE HOUSE DOWN and THE GREAT GATSBY.
A big thanks for your time.
// WANT TO KNOW MORE?
– Prime Focus: Dedicated page about THE LAST STAND on Prime Focus website.
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2013