Trapped with the Devil
Devil marks the first of M. Night Shyamalan's trilogy of original stories under his "Night Chronicles" production banner at Universal. It's a $20 million supernatural thriller about a group of strangers stuck in an elevator with the Devil in disguise, made by the Dowdle brothers (John directs and Drew produces), who previously did the similarly claustrophobic Quarantine.
Originally CORE was hired to do the vfx, but, when the Toronto studio shut down, Zoic stepped in to handle the 120 vfx shots, under the supervision of Rocco Passionino, with most of the work done by the BC studio.
While there wasn't much interaction with Shyamalan, Passionino had previously worked on Quarantine with the Dowdle brothers, so was quite familiar with their style of filmmaking, especially the use of extremely long takes. In fact, Quarantine was conceived as a single continuous take, as a news crew follows the escalating events surrounding an epidemic.
"John's great and this was somewhat of his first foray into CG," Passionino explains. "So it was a little bit of a learning experience for him, but he's good at articulating where he wants his visual effects to go. It was nice to have someone with a clear vision of what he wanted and be definitive about his choices. CORE had prevised a couple of the sequences, so John had some understanding of how the camera would fly through the shaft in a particular direction. We took over their blocking and fill in the gaps to make it more complete.
The film's opening shot turned out to be the most challenging. More than a minute in length, it begins with a long helicopter descend over the city that lands on the top of a building and starts a dive down through the ventilation system all the way through the upper layers of the building to the elevator shaft and then does a huge dive down through the shaft and comes up from the bottom of the shaft into the lobby where it winds up on a janitor doing some work as a guy falls to his death.
"That was difficult because any time there was a change, it resulted in long render times," adds Passionino. "And a couple of times we had to wing it for visual effects as far as reflections."