Shutter Island: VFX Method to the Madness
"Even all-CG shots contained lots of photography to texture the environments. All of our matte paintings were photographically based; even some of the CG models that we built were based on a miniature first. And a lot of the environments were based on collages from different locations that were either shot as digital stills or motion picture footage. A lot of it was pretty challenging even from a design standpoint. I think what kept it all going was there was no production or post-production delineation."
The dream and flashback sequences, not surprisingly, involved the greatest amount of work. "There's only one real visual effect in the whole movie and that's the ash woman, where you show what's going on in [Leonardo DiCaprio's] head than in real life."
In this dream sequence, DiCaprio has a bizarre encounter with his wife (Michelle Williams) in their apartment, in which the room bursts out in flames and she turns to ash.
"The fire gag was an afterthought," Legato continues. "All of a sudden, it was like: 'Why don't we set the room on fire?' We were always going to have the ash. I've certainly done this gag before where you build a black room and then set rubber cement fires everywhere and you just keep on building it until you get a stylized fire. The big trick that you're seeing, which is a further update of what I did on Interview with a Vampire, with the same guys -- Stan Winston's crew, which is now at Legacy Effects -- is build an ash dummy in various pieces and assemble them and literally set it on fire and had it smolder and then added a bunch of CG intermediary stuff, filling in the cracks and adding more dust and debris. And both Marty and I were nervous about this effect because it was the only one that was blatant. This isn't pretending to be real. So that was the only risky visual effect."
Grossman says that when her back is on fire, there's an intricate background shot that's intended to evoke Maxfield Parrish, which only lasts two seconds.