Hell in The Pacific
With 1,285 vfx shots, supervised by John Sullivan (Next, Red Eye, Collateral, Bulletproof Monk), the goal was to "lend a tremendous sense of reality to what we're doing, to make something that is accurate to what the true war in the Pacific was."
To that end, Sullivan had his own visual effects camera unit shooting elements in Australia, where the miniseries was filmed (clouds, ocean and boats) and utilized several vendors: Iloura from Australia, Flash Film Works, DigiScope, Digital Dream, Crazy Horse, Pixel Magic, BaseFX, Pixel Magic, Imageworks India and Lowry Digital.
Sullivan, who was on the project two -and-a-half years, says, "This was about the uniqueness of the Pacific theater: the supply lines coming in and getting stuck on islands. The big landing scene [on Guadalcanal] starts off episode one: the guys have been emotionally built up and trained that they're going to combat and they get to the beach and the Japanese are totally gone. The whole area where we had the Alligator Creek where the night battle takes place and we see all the dead bodies the next day was really difficult for [to shoot] because everything had to be isolated and controlled so we didn't pollute. For us, visual effects wise, we extended it out to give everything more scale. We added bodies, of course. For the night battle, we added all the tracer fire and augmented the special effects explosions with CG, making it all more dramatic and building up the experience of what it was like to be in battle. It was pretty easy because the explosions that they set off [under the supervision of Joss Williams] made it feel like a war zone.
"For the landing, we didn't have a fleet out there so the fleet's computer-generated. When we're going through the landing itself, we had four operational Higgins boats. I had to make a creative and financial choice. How do I put these boats in? We photographed the boats from different angles to give ourselves a library of live-action elements that we could composite into the shots rather than creating everything in CG. It actually turned out well: It gave us a sense of reality. We had to fight a little bit with lighting, but I think it gave us a natural sense of depth."
For the landing at Guadalcanal, the major fleet shots leading up to the landing sequence was done by Iloura; the hand off of the boats going toward the beach was done by Flash Film Works. Most of the Iloura work was CG, including the fleet of Higgins boats. "We shot the practical foreground elements on set," Sullivan continues. "We have a lot of hand offs between companies within the context of a scene. But it worked out nicely; we didn't have problems with integration."
The next big battle is Peleliu in episode five. "For Peleliu, we wanted to have that impending sense of driving into Hades," Sullivan suggests, "a very frightening experience and we worked very hard to build that intensity to go toward the beach."