Sherlock Holmes: Victorian London Calling
Guy Ritchie's re-imagined Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr. as Arthur Conan Doyle's venerable Victorian sleuth and Jude Law as a more than capable Dr. Watson, contains a meticulously recreated London as well as some explosive action. Chas Jarrett (Ninja Assassin, Speed Racer), the overall visual effects supervisor, discusses the 850 shots worked on by Double Negative and Framestore. The vfx ranged from all carriage and boat journeys, all exterior establishing shots and the Baker Street exterior set (only eight houses in a row on one side -- everything else was CG, digital matte paintings and motion controlled people/carriages). In addition, there were several action set pieces, including a villain being set on fire, a slow motion explosion and a madcap ship launch.
However, the mainstay of the vfx is the keen environmental work: a combination of plates shot on location and lots of building replacement, given that the movie takes place in London circa 1891. "Most environment work was based on photos," Jarrett relates. "We would find relevant buildings (hotels, restaurants)."
The Thames is the lifeblood of London and Tower Bridge is still under construction; bridging the Docklands at the East End of the city. However, very few of London's original Victorian buildings survived the heavy bombing of two World Wars. To replace modern London, Jarrett says the Double Negative team (supervised by David Vickery) surveyed and photographed nearly 50 different period warehouses, mills, churches, residential buildings and factories from multiple in London, Manchester, Chatham historic Docks and Liverpool formed the basis of an architectural library that was used to rebuild the Victorian city depicted by archival photography. In addition, more than 100 unique digital work props were created to provide attention to detail and a historically accurate digital world.
"There's a nice high wide shot of a prison early on that I like," Jarrett continues. "The establishing of that is a sweeping 400-foot shot looking down over London with a prison and it's raining and lightening goes off and lights up the whole prison. There were no photos for that: it was CG built.
"Broadly speaking, Double Negative handled the London Bridge sequence at the end, Standish catching fire when his gun backfires and some establishing bits too. Because of limitations of the location, we couldn't have any fire inside the building, so we did digital fire when he first ignites. Double Negative used its proprietary software. And then when he smashes out of the window, there are two shots. One, which is a top shot looking down, with a horse and carriage below, and then we cut to a low angle shot looking up and you see him smashing into the carriage.