Ready, set, ac­tion!

Trevor Hogg en­coun­ters a sar­cas­tic mer­ce­nary and a galac­tic smug­gler while un­cov­er­ing the ac­tion-scene se­crets of Dead­pool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story

3D World - - CONTENTS -

Go be­hind the scenes of Solo: A Star Wars Story and Dead­pool 2 as we dis­cover the VFX teams’ ap­proach to their ac­tion-packed scenes

At first glance Dead­pool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story ap­pear to be ex­tremely dif­fer­ent from each other, but look­ing be­yond the span­dex su­per­hero cos­tume and weird alien crea­tures, sim­i­lar­i­ties be­gin to show through, es­pe­cially in the ap­proach to­wards de­sign­ing, cre­at­ing and ex­e­cut­ing ac­tion se­quences. De­spite the fan­tas­ti­cal hu­man ca­pa­bil­i­ties and set­tings, the goal for each pro­duc­tion was to ground ev­ery­thing in re­al­ity, or at least pseudo physics, to cre­ate a sense of be­liev­abil­ity

for the au­di­ence. In­ter­est­ingly, the sig­na­ture set piece for both movies in­volve heists, whether it be res­cu­ing a mu­tant from a mil­i­tary con­voy or steal­ing cargo from an Im­pe­rial mono­rail train.

Rather than cre­ate full CG en­vi­ron­ments to match the stunt ac­tion filmed on blue screen, film­maker David Leitch ( Atomic Blonde) elected to use down­town Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia for the as­sault by the newly formed X-force led by Dead­pool (Ryan Reynolds) to lib­er­ate the pyro-in­clined Rus­sell/ Fire­fist (Ju­lian Den­ni­son) as he is be­ing trans­ported be­tween pris­ons. Ex­ten­sive pre-plan­ning was con­ducted by DNEG, who were hired by veteran vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Dan Glass ( Bat­man Be­gins) to dig­i­tally aug­ment the chaos that en­sues. “Be­cause they had to get per­mits well in ad­vance we knew that cer­tain sec­tions of the city were go­ing to be shut down, such as Ge­or­gia Street and Hast­ings Street,” states DNEG VFX su­per­vi­sor Mike Brazel­ton. “From the be­gin­ning we were do­ing our own ref­er­ence and recce mis­sions.”

He con­tin­ues: “We built and drove a truck that had chrome and grey balls on it, a LIDAR ma­chine, and a round shot set up with a six­cam­era ar­ray that cre­ated a photo bub­ble. You couldn’t take sec­tions from var­i­ous streets and make it work for con­ti­nu­ity, be­cause Ge­or­gia Street is quite dif­fer­ent from Hast­ings Street.” The footage was cap­tured at three sep­a­rate heights: five, eight and ten-feet. “As long as we kept true to cer­tain cam­era heights we would be able to use the cor­re­spond­ing ar­ray footage. It’s like spher­i­cal video where you can move the cam­era any­where within it,” states DNEG an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Eric Bates. “Of­ten it was se­lect­ing what ar­ray footage would work for what­ever shot.” Brazel­ton adds, “It was im­por­tant that we knew ex­actly what needed to be shot, be­cause you only get a cou­ple of hours in the day where you could shoot with the cam­era crew and po­lice es­cort.”

DNEG en­vi­ron­ment su­per­vi­sor Me­laina Mace con­trolled the over­all look of the city rather than re­ly­ing en­tirely on com­posit­ing. “The turnaround for the film was

Right: The streets of Van­cou­ver were LIDAR scanned and pho­tographed to cre­ate a vir­tual back­ground for the con­voy chase Be­low: Dig­i­tally en­hanced chaos en­sues as a rip­ple ef­fect of mis­for­tune be­falls those around Domino

“I sat down and went through the his­tory of cin­ema to find ev­ery train ac­tion se­quence” Matt Shumway, an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor, ILM

short and we also had to do some late reshoots,” notes Brazel­ton. “One of the big­gest shots for us is the cam­era ro­tat­ing around Domino [Zazie Beetz] as she lands to get on the con­voy. The only plate piece is her. The rest of it is all dig­i­tal cars and en­vi­ron­ments.” The ini­tial plan was to use a dig­i­tal dou­ble. “Given how in­ti­mate the cam­era is to her, try­ing to re­pro­duce that would be quite dif­fi­cult,” ob­serves Bates. “We would get a bet­ter re­sult film­ing her so the shot was split into three sec­tions. When she lands it is live ac­tion, her run­ning from be­hind is a dig­i­tal dou­ble and as we swoop around it’s back to the live-ac­tion plates.” A dig­i­tal play­back ver­sion was pro­duced to de­ter­mine how fast Domino should be run­ning and where she was run­ning from. “We gave that en­vi­ron­ment to the Ncam team which en­abled us while shoot­ing to see a back­ground be­hind the per­for­mances of Zazie Beetz,” re­marks Brazel­ton. “What we had in pre­vis was close to what ended up in the film.” The con­voy was phys­i­cally built and scanned as well as the ac­tors. “The con­voy it­self was an in­cred­i­ble amount of data that we had to get through,” re­marks Brazel­ton. “We cre­ated a whole fleet of ve­hi­cles and had blue-screen crowd el­e­ments that could be added in.” Along­side the pro­jec­tion el­e­ments were fully CG shots. “Ca­ble [Josh Brolin] get­ting launched from one part of the con­voy to the next is all purely CG ef­fects. Be­cause they had done a sim­i­lar ex­plo­sion ear­lier in the film we had some­thing to match into, which made the whole process eas­ier.” De­bris, shrap­nel and smoke were dig­i­tally in­cor­po­rated into the shots. “When Jug­ger­naut punches through the con­voy and causes the whole bridge to col­lapse that’s on Granville Street Bridge. We were able to go back and get photography. When fig­ur­ing out how the bridge would break up we looked at a lot of earth­quake and tsunami ref­er­ences. We tried to ground it as much in the physics of re­al­ity as we could while still telling the story.”

Far from mod­ern ur­ban set­tings are the snowy moun­tain­tops sit­u­ated on the planet of Van­dor, where an Im­pe­rial mono­rail train trav­els with a cargo of coax­ium fuel that a band of smug­glers is hired to steal by a crime syn­di­cate; such is the sit­u­a­tion that Han Solo (Alden Ehren­re­ich) and his Wook­iee part­ner-in-crime Chew­bacca (Joonas Suo­tamo) find them­selves in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

“The first thing that I was told about was there was go­ing to be a big train heist,” re­calls ILM an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Matt Shumway. “I sat down and went through the his­tory of cin­ema to find ev­ery train ac­tion se­quence. I pulled clips from back in the day to cur­rent stuff, like Snow­piercer. Rob Bre­dow [ pro­duc­tion VFX su­per­vi­sor] and I looked at it and broke down what we thought was go­ing to work. What we found was mov­ing a train at 30 to 40 miles per hour felt way bet­ter than a sci-fi train go­ing at 300 miles per hour through a canyon.”

Shumway con­tin­ues: “We needed to have fights, troop­ers and the cast on top of the train; it had to be be­liev­able that they could be up there. We treated the trans­port like a big heavy freight train, took away the sci-fi an­gle, and grounded it more in re­al­ity. De­pend­ing on how you move the cam­era you can give the train the speed that keeps the shot ex­cit­ing.” ILM Lon­don was re­spon­si­ble for the se­quence and took ad­van­tage of be­ing near an iconic sub­way sys­tem when con­duct­ing re­search. “Our an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Chris Lentz went on the Tube in Lon­don and shot a ton of footage of how the trains’ tyres in­ter­act with each other. We used that as ref­er­ence for how all of the train cars in­ter­act.”

Rob Bre­dow con­ducted a he­li­copter aerial shoot in the Ital­ian Dolomites to cap­ture the re­quired 120 pho­to­graphic plates which

were pro­duced from 20,000 im­ages taken across an area of 26 miles. “Some en­vi­ron­ments are straight photography plates, some are stitched-to­gether pho­to­graphs that are based on the Dolomites, and oth­ers are full CG en­vi­ron­ments,” notes Shumway. “The theme of this movie was to get as much prac­ti­cally and match it as best you can. There wasn’t a lot of guess­ing when it came to cre­at­ing th­ese en­vi­ron­ments. We had a lot of ref­er­ence, a lot that we could match to, and there were a lot of bench­marks through­out the film. One thing about Brad­ford Young’s [ Ar­rival] photography is he didn’t like hav­ing direct sun­light; that ben­e­fit­ted us quite a bit be­cause it was a lot eas­ier to in­te­grate into th­ese shad­owy en­vi­ron­ments. The com­pos­i­tors would dis­agree with me be­cause the plates were dark, so it was dif­fi­cult to roto and key in moves. To my eyes there were no tell­tale signs of it be­ing CG.” Leg­end Beco mes Realit y First men­tioned in the orig­i­nal Star Wars, the Kes­sel Run gets the big-screen treat­ment cour­tesy of ILM San Fran­cisco. Un­rav­el­ling the mys­tery of the Kes­sel Run was a ma­jor part of the fun for ILM vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Patrick Tubach. “If you’re go­ing to do the Kes­sel Run in the ap­proved way you go through this corkscrew tun­nel. Our ef­fects team cre­ated a post- formed sheet of clouds, sim­u­lated clouds on it and wrapped that in a tun­nel shape. It’s like you’re fly­ing through the mid­dle of a hur­ri­cane. We had to come up with ideas as to how we were go­ing to do the car­bon bergs that are float­ing around the edges. There was this sheet light­ning that we de­vel­oped for the in­te­rior of the corkscrew that starts in one area and makes its way down around the tun­nel and fingers out. That was im­por­tant to Ron Howard [di­rec­tor]. You wanted it to look dan­ger­ous but also that they were fly­ing in the safe zone at that mo­ment.”

An Im­pe­rial block­ade re­sults in Han Solo tak­ing a short­cut into the most dan­ger­ous part of

the storm with TIE fight­ers in pur­suit of the Mil­len­nium Fal­con. “It was de­scribed to us as one of the worst rain­storms that you’ve ever driven through,” ex­plains Tubach. “Vis­i­bil­ity is al­most noth­ing, they’re try­ing to dodge th­ese gi­ant car­bon bergs and have this big dogfight, which leads them to meet this mon­ster and get sucked into a gi­ant vor­tex known as a grav­ity well. Our ef­fects lead Florent An­dorra came up with this amaz­ing sys­tem with his team that al­lowed us to have the an­i­ma­tors place an idea of where the grav­ity well was, and from there ren­der any dis­tance within rea­son of that ef­fect.”

“Ten­ta­cles are al­ways a real chal­lenge for an­i­ma­tors, be­cause there isn’t a great way of hav­ing them be­have ex­actly the way that you want with­out get­ting in there, pos­ing them, and putting them in the places that you want,” notes Tubach. “We also had mul­ti­ple eyes and this com­plex sys­tem of teeth. That crea­ture was a huge col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween our an­i­ma­tion and rig­ging teams to come up with some­thing that we could get into shots quickly, but also mod­ify as the shots de­vel­oped. We ref­er­enced all sorts of deepsea underwater fish, squids and oc­to­pus to come up with that weird tex­tu­ral qual­ity.”

Laser blasts from the TIE fight­ers and Mil­len­nium Fal­con served as a light­ing com­po­nent in an oth­er­wise dark en­vi­ron­ment. “ILM art di­rec­tor James Clyne had a great team of artists who gave us some in­ter­est­ing con­cepts early on which we used to cre­ate th­ese pro­jec­tion im­ages,” ex­plains Tubach. “We needed to have all of the other lights off in the Fal­con cock­pit for that screen to look good. That led us down this path of us­ing the screen as our pri­mary light source. Brad­ford Young, our DP, was all in for that. He wanted spe­cific things and we were able to work with our pro­jec­tion team to make those cor­rec­tions.”

A fun op­por­tu­nity was com­ing up with a new ver­sion of an iconic space­ship. “At the be­gin­ning of the film we have Lando Cal­ris­sian’s [Don­ald Glover] Fal­con and end with some­thing that is much closer to what Han Solo flies in Episode IV,” notes Tubach. “We took the time through­out the Kes­sel Run to fig­ure out, how are all of th­ese pieces go­ing to come off, what gets re­vealed underneath and how does it make sense? We’re re­veal­ing bit by bit the Fal­con that you know.” Ca­ble Goes to Priso n Dead­pool 2’ s Ca­ble causes may­hem in a prison for mu­tants as he hunts down a teenage in­mate known as Fire­fist. Trans­formed into a mu­tant prison was the Port Mann Sub­sta­tion in Sur­rey, Bri­tish Columbia. “The big­gest de­sign chal­lenge was cre­at­ing Ca­ble’s sonic weapon, which Dan Glass wanted to use cy­mat­ics as the ba­sis of the look of it,” ex­plains Method Stu­dios vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Sean Kon­rad. “We spent a lot of time look­ing at cy­matic videos and com­ing up with ways of in­cor­po­rat­ing th­ese in­ter­est­ing pat­terns into the dis­tor­tion sonic ef­fect. When they went to shoot it on site their light­ing ef­fects were de­signed around the ini­tial tests that we did. The front wave is chro­matic aber­ra­tion dis­tor­tion mov­ing for­ward and mov­ing be­hind it is this twist­ing vol­ume of float­ing dust and de­bris that is im­pact­ing against the rest of the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Witness cam­eras were hidden through­out the lo­ca­tion that in­cluded a Gopro and the Sony a7s II with a zoom lens. “We tried to go 90 de­grees from the cam­era so that if Josh Brolin was do­ing 360-de­gree an­gle move­ment we’d still get an­other view of it,” states Kon­rad. “Or if we were on a tighter lens and he was rais­ing his arm, we would still have a wider view to work with and to fig­ure out ex­actly what the arm was do­ing. The prison en­vi­ron­ment was dimly lit and they did a good job of cre­at­ing key light­ing around Josh as he was mov­ing through the en­vi­ron­ment. But that also meant at times they were wide so you couldn’t see the hand. We ended up putting retrore­flec­tive mark­ers on his fingers so we had that as a guide.”

The track­ing sleeve was quite de­tailed. “There were cases where we changed the per­for­mance of Josh for stylis­tic rea­sons, but for the most part we fol­lowed the sil­hou­ette and tried to sculpt the

Sean Kon­rad, VFX su­per­vi­sor, Method Stu­dios “The big­gest de­sign chal­lenge was cre­at­ing Ca­ble’s sonic weapon”

Be­low: The cock­pit of the Mil­len­nium Fal­con was put in­side a 180-de­gree wra­paround pro­jec­tion screen that was 30 feet tall and pro­vided all of the in­te­rior light­ing Right (above): Scratches and fin­ger­prints were in­cor­po­rated into the sur­face tex­ture of Colos­sus to add to his be­liev­abil­ity

mus­cle shapes and bi­cep ca­bles to what we wanted for his arm,” ex­plains Kon­rad. “The trick­ier parts are when he’s punch­ing peo­ple or do­ing some­thing that would have a con­cus­sive re­ac­tion with the ca­bling and plates in the ge­om­e­try. We worked out a way to cre­ate a sense of im­pact and force when we had close-ups of [ his] arm and can see the mech­a­nisms.”

Ca­ble blows out a bunch of glass pan­elling. “The thing that we added to the shot was some CG glass fly­ing through the en­vi­ron­ment and extra de­bris,” re­marks Kon­rad. “We ren­dered the glass both in Mantra and V-ray. The way they han­dle en­vi­ron­ment pro­jec­tions is dif­fer­ent and can cre­ate in­ter­est­ing pho­to­graphic looks. In the com­pos­ite we would take ren­ders from each pass and put them to­gether to try to get that sense of re­fract­ing and re­flect­ing the rest of the en­vi­ron­ment.” There were a cou­ple of prac­ti­cal ex­plo­sions. “They shot A and B plates and used an in­ter­ac­tive light to in­di­cate the light­ing of the ex­plo­sion. It was a whole lot of roto to put those things to­gether.” Colos­sal Con­fro nta­tio n Flex­i­bil­ity was re­quired by Frame­store to ac­com­mo­date for the evolv­ing ed­i­to­rial process in the epic fight be­tween mas­sive CG char­ac­ters Colos­sus and Jug­ger­naut. “Our ap­proach was to have solid assets with rigs that could be man­age­able, so when a change came in we could ac­count for it or mod­ify our work­flow ac­cord­ingly,” states Frame­store CG su­per­vi­sor Ben­jamin Ma­gana. “Colos­sus was our first chal­lenge. We made him a leaner mili­tia type of guy. There were a cou­ple of re­vi­sions where we had to go back to match bet­ter the first model

“A lot of things get re­flected onto Colos­sus. Most of our shots be­came full CG so we could con­trol those high­lights”

[from the orig­i­nal movie], mainly fa­cial fea­tures.”

In­ter­nal mo­cap ses­sions were con­ducted to pro­duce ad­di­tional shots while fa­cial cap­ture of ac­tor Ste­fan Kapi­cic was han­dled by An­i­ma­trik. “We pro­vided them with our ap­proved blocked model and rig so they could bake their sim­u­la­tions of the cap­tures into our model,” ex­plains Ma­gana. “We then wrapped that into our in­ter­nal rig to have a start­ing point.” Scratches and fin­ger­prints were pro­grammed into the shader to en­sure that the metal­lic sur­face was not flat and bor­ing. “That type of char­ac­ter is like hav­ing a chrome ball go­ing around the set. A lot of things get re­flected onto Colos­sus but also off of him. Most of our shots started as be­ing plate shots but be­came full CG so we could con­trol those high­lights.”

Colos­sus, who is 7’6”, bat­tles a 9’6” op­po­nent. “The big­gest chal­lenge with Jug­ger­naut was scale,” ob­serves Ma­gana. “He’s ab­nor­mally huge and it’s dif­fi­cult to por­tray that when you have an­other guy who is a bit smaller. Jug­ger­naut is a mix be­tween a hu­man and an outer-space God which makes him prac­ti­cally in­de­struc­tible. There was a dis­cus­sion on how we were go­ing to beat him and make him vul­ner­a­ble.” Colos­sus is like a trained fighter while Jug­ger­naut is a rough strong­man. “We tried to get that into our fight as well as in how they moved.”

Ini­tially, the plan was to com­pos­ite the CG char­ac­ters onto plate photography. “At a cer­tain [ point] we had to go full CG for the en­vi­ron­ment,” re­veals Ma­gana. “We had LIDAR scans be­cause it was sup­posed to be a set ex­ten­sion type of build. We talked to Dan Glass about what points of the as­set were to be de­stroyed and built those sec­tions with that in mind.” There is a cause-and-ef­fect im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment which em­pha­sises the ag­gres­sive­ness of the fight. “There are in­stances like Colos­sus be­ing jammed into the floor or wall and you see all of the dust and cracks, or when Jug­ger­naut gets thrown through the air and lands in an area that gets de­stroyed.” •

Over 100 pho­to­graphic aerial plates taken in the Ital­ian Dolomites were used for the train heist se­quence on Van­dor

Phoebe Waller-bridge wore a prac­ti­cal suit for L3-37 that was dig­i­tally aug­mented

The Mil­len­nium Fal­con en­coun­ters a space mon­ster and grav­ity well dur­ing the Kes­sel Run

Con­cept art de­vel­oped by DNEG for the shield de­ployed by Ca­ble

Top: Josh Brolin wears a track­ing sleeve while glass has been re­moved from the gog­gles of the prison guard. The ro­botic arm is added to Ca­ble as well as shat­tered glass into the guard’s gog­gles On-set light­ing ef­fects were de­signed to en­hance the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the prison en­vi­ron­ment and the de­struc­tion caused by the sonic weapon utilised by Ca­ble

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